At Antique Bar and Bakery, It’s All About the Oven 

by Peter Candia
Antique Bar and Bakery

When you first walk into Antique Bar and Bakery, it’s not the hundreds of vintage photographs or the 1950s television you see. It’s not the antique cameras or Fornasetti pieces of furniture, either. Instead, it’s the glowing oven at the restaurant’s rear. The furthest place from the front door—and the first thing you see. 

That oven means a lot to Antique, and it means even more to Hoboken. Sitting down at the table, an enthusiastic (and educated) server explained that it’s the oldest and largest oven of that style in the nation. An oven so storied, it wouldn’t be legal to build today. The story is that this 400-square-foot oven baked the very baguettes that Frank Sinatra lovingly referred to as “sticks.” The server also went on to explain that because Antique Bar and Bakery is so committed to this piece of equipment, any item on the menu that’s able to be touched by its charcoal kiss will be. That can mean roasting a chicken in its embrace or finishing a steak with a stop in front of the flames. It can mean charring zucchini or roasting meatballs in tomato sauce.

Oven-fired meatball with ricotta

No matter where you look in Antique Bar and Bakery, it always comes back to the oven. It’s the centerpiece of the operation. It’s the reason people dine there. That’s why you have to go. 

The menu is written like a film script—a playful nod to the history of Hoboken and the group of owners behind the operation. Filmmaker Joseph Castelo bought the restaurant along with Bob Castelo, Christine Commesso and the late Rocco Ancarola. The goal was simple: preserve the beauty of old Hoboken while creating a dining experience fit to last. 

Antique Bar is packed nightly. It’s become the busiest restaurant in Hoboken and diners even travel from New York City to come try the magic that is the century-old oven. But, it’s not just the food and lore that is the draw—it’s the varied and thoughtful cocktail list, the impeccable design choices and the top-notch service. 

Antique Hoboken

The back dining room hugs around the vintage oven

Smoke floods the back room where the oven and open kitchen sit—chairs and tables hug around it. In the front of the restaurant is a dim-lit bar and more tables. Bread (sticks) sit in the window. All of this adds up. It creates a lasting memory. If anything, food is the last thing I care about at Antique Bar and Bakery. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t great, either. 

You might start your meal off at the bar. Maybe a Manhattan play jovially deemed the “Stone’s Throw From Manhattan,” or a rum highball topped off with coconut water and fragrant mint. It’s a fitting lead up for the meal to follow. 

For starters, you’d be smart to go for the meatball. It’s a crowd favorite for a reason. One large beef meatball is covered in vibrant tomato sauce and fired in the oven. The sauce bubbles and pieces of the meatball burn for textural contrast. Inside, moist and glistening meat—seasoned throughout. A dollop of ricotta and a marinated pepper adorn the meatball and a piece of charred and buttered bread comes on the side for dipping. It’s a common appetizer across the state, but no other restaurant has this oven. That’s the point.

Mussels swim in a vibrant green butter, packed with sliced garlic and chili

Mussels are no joke, either. They come bathed in an herbaceous and pungent green garlic butter. A piece of bread comes smeared with the same butter on the side. The dish is loaded with thin-sliced garlic and stacked high with mussels. No need for forks, just go right at it with your hands. And when the mussels and bread is all gone, use the shells to drink the rest of the butter. That’s how the pros do it, anyway.

Pasta is on the menu, too. How does cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe sound? Chewy pasta comes sauced with garlic and oil, studded with chopped broccoli rabe, chili, and browned morsels of crumbled sausage. It’s undoubtedly a classic. Or, you could go for creamy mac and cheese, baked off with plenty of bread crumbs on top, crisping up and shielding the molten interior.

Cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe

For your mains, you can’t go wrong with anything, really. The burger is storied, the barbacoa short rib is spicy, fall-off-the-bone tender and comes over mashed potatoes and the branzino comes whole and charred. But, the hanger steak and chicken were truly impressive. 

Let’s start with chicken—you can go for a half or whole. The meat is succulent and well-seasoned, wrapped in golden-brown skin with charcoal-kissed bubbles leoparding the exterior. The chicken is given a shower of chopped chilis (a common theme at Antique), herbs and is served with a charred lemon on the side.

Antique Bar and Bakery

Hanger steak with spicy green sauce and creamy roasted garlic

The hanger steak comes seared with plenty of hard herbs. Think thyme, rosemary and the like. Their scents wafting over the steak as it finishes in the hot oven. A bulb of roasted garlic comes on the side along with a carafe of spicy green sauce for dipping, similar to an aji verde. The garlic just needs a squeeze for the golden cloves to come oozing out over the steak, which is tender and seasoned. 

You cannot—I repeat—cannot pass up the bread pudding. If you can only take one thing from this write up, have it be this: the bread pudding at Antique Bar and bakery rules. A mound of custard-soaked bread is placed in a dish and baked off. It comes to the table steaming hot and ready to be dug into. If that wasn’t enough, the server pours warm tuaca caramel on top and you’ll watch in amazement as it cascades down the sides, soaking into every crevice. “Family size” it says on the menu, and that’s no joke. Four people could only put a dent in this thing (it makes for a great breakfast the next morning). What a treat. 

Antique Bar and Bakery Hoboken

Gargantuan bread pudding with caramel poured tableside

Antique Bar and Bakery is about the history of Hoboken. When you walk inside, you’re met with a myriad of things to obsess over. Portraits of Frank Sinatra, famous actors and actresses, vintage trinkets and projector screens. But the space is defined by the oven at the rear—the prized piece of the restaurant. Antique Bar and Bakery is nothing without this equipment, which has stood the test of time for a century. If we’re lucky, it’ll live on for a century more—and another one after that. 

With great drinks, food and service to match, it is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after reservations in the Garden State. I get it now. My eyes have been open. You just have to go. 

About the Author/s

All posts

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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